Why I travel: for the food, but also for the unexpected

My rickshaw driver keeps pace with taxis as he peddles me through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The cool wind against my face brings relief from Vietnam’s stifling summer heat. Just as I’m about to relax, I smell smoke. It’s not the ubiquitous smog of unregulated motorbike exhausts. I immediately recognize this aroma as barbecue, like pork …

What to eat (or not) at the Orange County Fair

My first strategy at the OC Fair was to follow the smoke. Where there’s smoke, there will also be good food. Or so it usually goes. I spotted the beef tri-tips smoldering on a grill. They looked awesome. They looked like real Santa Maria barbecue. I immediately got in line and ordered the tri-tip sandwich. It was gross…

Photo of the week: San Jose del Cabo

This is one of my favorite photos from my stay at the beautiful Mar Adentro in San Jose del Cabo, an incredible resort designed  (and owned) by Miguel Angel Aragones. I love the brutal simplicity of the beach chairs and umbrellas. I woke up early to catch the sunrise…

Hotel Review: Freehand, Los Angeles

The Freehand Los Angeles opened last week at the corner of 8th and Olive — across the street from legendary dive bar the Golden Gopher. The 226-room hotel resides in the landmark, 12-story Commercial Exchange building, which has been gutted and completely redesigned with an urban-hipster twist on California Craftsman. 

This just in: Southern California Journalism Awards!

I’m feeling grateful and blessed to receive the Southern California Journalism Award for restaurant criticism at the Los Angeles Press Club’s annual gala. It is particularly gratifying to see this comment from the judges: “The winning critique blends a keen palate with laugh-out-loud humor in this spot-on reminder that a restaurant is much more than the food on the plate.”

O.C. Review: Meizhou Dongpo, Irvine

My skin is numb. Not just my lips and tongue but my lungs and toes, too. I have never been so uncomfortable as right now because I badly want to eat this stuff. It smells so nice. And it tastes so good for that millisecond before the electric surge…

Photo of the Week: Sydney Opera House

The last time I was in Sydney, I was amazed at the spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the harbor and the famous opera house. I snapped this shot just after sunrise, when the sun finally broke through the morning clouds. Moments earlier, the sky exploded with pinks, yellows and oranges, which I also captured…

Heli-fishing at Nimmo Bay, BC

The helicopter lifts, then tilts back, back, back… The trees spin sideways. The bay slips out from under us. The sky comes rushing forward. Clouds. Blue. An eagle… The trees begin righting themselves. We were upside down for only a split second before completing the loop-d-loop. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to weightlessness, and though I want to retain my composure, I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face. We feather toward the lake, landing softly on one of the resort’s three over-water helipads.

Hotel Review: LondonHouse, Chicago

The LondonHouse opened in May and overlooks the Chicago River from the famous corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. The 22-story historic landmark emerged from a dramatic three-year reconstruction project that saw the addition of a glass and steel annex next door, juxtaposing the original beaux arts structure with an ultra-modernist annex, creating a 452-room hotel…

72 Hours in Chicago, 27 photos

Forever one of the world’s most significant cities for architecture, Chicago’s skyline has grown even more spectacular in recent years, both around the river and along the lakefront. Here’s a quick look around of the city I used to call home.

Hotel Review: The Robey, Chicago

After what seemed like the longest delay in hotel-opening history, The Robey finally opened its doors in November in the heart of Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood. A member of Design Hotels, the 69-room, 12-story Robey is the second U.S. property for Mexico City-based Grupo Habita…